Leanna Wynn Retires

Leanna Wynn Retires

Story and Photos By David Blanchette

One of the most active figures in the daily operation of Jacksonville Memorial Hospital retired on May 15 after a 46-year career that saw profound changes in the way health care services are delivered.

Leanna Wynn started at then Passavant Area Hospital in 1977 as a patient care technician while still enrolled in nursing school, and rose through the ranks to serve as a nurse and an administrator. She was Jacksonville Memorial Hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer from 2016 until her retirement.

“Nurses often don’t realize how much they impact others,” said Wynn of her four-and-a-half-decade nursing career. “I will miss the people the most after I retire.”

Except for a summer stint detasseling corn as a youth, Wynn has been involved in the health care field all of her life. Her ambition to become a nurse began when she was growing up in Greenfield.

“My best friend’s mom was a nurse and she worked at Passavant at nights as a supervisor, and she would bring us to work with her,” Wynn said as tears began to flow during an interview with The Source.

“I saw wonderful things happening and I wanted to be a part of that. I am emotional about it, because it was such an important thing for me to do.”

Wynn and her best friend, Diana Williams, enrolled in the Passavant School of Nursing in 1976, a three-year degree program during which students lived on campus at the hospital.

“We would go to the cafeteria and have breakfast and roam the halls of the hospital during non-class time,” Wynn said. “In 1977, while I was still going to nursing school, I became employed at Passavant as a patient care technician. It was pretty much understood that I would just roll into an RN position as a staff nurse once I graduated.”

Wynn earned her RN degree and decided to stay at Passavant. “I thought it would be easy, I knew where the bathrooms were, I knew how to get food and I knew the people. … So, I could really focus on my nursing skills to be the best nurse I could be,” she said.

Wynn began working on a medical-surgical floor and before long was promoted to an assistant nurse manager, and then nurse manager. She became a nursing director, was promoted to vice president of quality, safety and operations improvement, and finally assumed the CNO role in 2016.

Wynn continued her education throughout her nursing career, earning her bachelor’s degree and Master of Science in nursing, and attaining a Master of Business Administration as well.

Wynn has seen many positive changes during her time in the profession, but the greatest change involved giving more autonomy to nurses and encouraging their professional growth and development.

“When I started, when physicians came to the nurses’ station, you got up so they could have your seat,” Wynn said. “Today, we’ll have conversations. Physicians will ask us, ‘What do you think?’ It’s really collaborative, and that improves care.”

Added Wynn, “We have advanced the bedside nurses’ ability to question what we do, to ask if this is really the best evidence-based treatment and practice. … Nurses are important to the health care field. They serve a distinct role that nobody else can do by being that collaborator, that overseer, the advocate for the patient.”

Wynn also noted that she has seen a dramatic shift over the years toward more outpatient treatment, with more modern and less invasive procedures that require no overnight hospital stays. Medications to treat chronic diseases have also improved, which in turn reduces the amount of time that patients stay hospitalized.

Then there’s the change that has occurred during the past 40-plus years in overall health care philosophy.

“We used to do things that really weren’t based on evidence or facts. We did it because somebody thought it was a good idea,” Wynn said. “Now, there is enough evidence and research and literature out there that suggests best practices. So, you are following best practices, whether you are in Jacksonville or the Mayo Clinic.”

COVID-19 presented special challenges for Wynn and the nursing staff, and Wynn had to become a working nurse again in addition to her administrative duties because there was an acute nursing shortage during the pandemic. Wynn was one of the main facilitators in cooperation with the Morgan County Health Department to get the first COVID clinic at the hospital so mass vaccinations could begin.

Wynn said she has made it her mission to build an environment that lets nurses drive their practice. She feels that Jacksonville Memorial nurses always want to do what is best for patients, and that all nurses strive to be kind and caring while listening to patients and making sure they understand their treatment.

“The best thing a patient can say to us is that they received good care — that the nurses listened to them, that they were attentive and kind to the patients and their families, and they helped patients be able to go home again,” said Wynn.

Wynn would like to see more people enter the nursing profession because it is a very rewarding career that is very much in demand.

“You can be a nurse and do anything, you can work in multiple different arenas,” Wynn said. “If you don’t want to be an obstetrical nurse anymore, you can be an emergency room nurse, a school nurse or work in a physicians’ clinic. There are lots of opportunities for registered nurses and it’s a wonderful career to impact people.”

Jacksonville Memorial Hospital is a Magnet-designated organization, and as such the facility is visited by external people to validate its environment for nurses’ practice. Wynn is an appraiser for the Magnet program and will continue to do that work when she moves to Texas to be with her daughter, who will soon deliver Wynn’s grandchild.

Wynn also has two stepdaughters and four grandchildren through her husband, Chester Wynn, the former CEO of Passavant Area Hospital.

Had she not become a nurse, Leanna Wynn would have been a veterinarian “because anybody who knows me knows I love animals,” she said while in her office, which was covered in art depicting animals.

Wynn has no regrets about her 46-year nursing career, and is grateful for the opportunity she has had to work with her fellow health care professionals in Jacksonville.

“I am very proud of the nurses here and thankful for all of the partnerships we have in the community so we can continue to be the best that we can be,” Wynn said.

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